‘Lucy and Desi’ Producer Says Team ‘Struck Gold’ With Undiscovered Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz Footage

by Craig Garrett

The producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary Lucy and Desi revealed how the filmmakers found never seen material about the classic tv duo. Mark Monroe, who also co-wrote the film, called Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, “the most powerful couple probably Hollywood has ever seen.”

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz established Desilu Studios, a major independent production company. However, they also created one of the most famous television shows of all time with I Love Lucy. That show introduced all sorts of innovations that remain industry standards today. Many modern sitcoms still tape in front of a live audience and shoot with multiple cameras. Desilu Studios also created the concepts of syndication and re-runs, giving shows second lives.

“The innovations… we take them for granted because we’re still reaping the rewards of a lot of the things they invented,” Monroe recently told Deadline. “It’s just the way television is today.” Lucy and Desi, directed by Amy Poehler, received six Emmy nods this year, more than any other documentary. The documentary nabbed a nomination for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, and recognition for directing, writing, picture editing, and music composition.

Lucy and Desi filmmakers had unprecedented access to the legendary couple

Poehler and her filmmaking team were granted access to a mountain of material on Lucille ball and Desi Arnez. This included ultra rare audio interviews with Ball and Arnaz that showed the power couple in a new light. “We struck gold very early in the process, which was kind of miraculous,” Monroe recalled. Producer Jeanne Elfant Festa was looking through archives kept by Lucy and Desi’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill when she came across the audio. “She did stumble across a box, something that wasn’t expected on the day when we were going through all the letters and pictures and all the memorabilia that they’ve kept. And that box had audiotapes. And they were pretty unique.”

The documentary’s editor, Robert A. Martinez relied on the audiotapes but also drafted in home videos. “[Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz] didn’t live publicly — they weren’t out at parties all the time,” Martinez said. “They were very private… So those home videos were a big gift.”

Monroe pointed out director Amy Poehler for crafting the story in a way to resonate with audiences. “People think Amy was perfect for this because she’s funny and because she’s had this great comic career. I think she was perfect for this because she’s a humanist,” Monroe told Deadline. “She was not a director who was leaning into the ‘funny.’ The funny was there. She was leaning to the human elements of [Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz] and trying to make sure that we brought them back to life as human beings rather than these icons that they’re held up to be sometimes.”